MOUNT VERNON — The Winter Sanctuary, located in the Parish House of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, is now open and ready to provide overnight accommodation for homeless men who need temporary shelter in the winter months, November to April.
Lisa Mazzari, director, said the shelter has 20 beds for male guests, with additional cots available as needed. Women and children are generally housed in a hotel, and Mazzari said alternate accomodations for them would be nice to have.
Besides a sleeping place and bathroom facilities, the Winter Sanctuary has a recreation area with a television, movies and games. The kitchen area offers a place where guests can store supplies and cook for themselves.
The shelter is intended to be a short-term option for those utilizing its services. Most of the women that were sheltered last year are employed now and on their own, Mazzari said, and this year’s guests, so far, are not the same men who stayed last year.
“We are a temporary fix,” Mazzari said. “We are here to be a help up, not a hand out. A lot of our guests are working. It’s just not enough to pay rent and pay utilities. Oftentimes our guests are just faced with obstacles and different hurdles. We provide them shelter and a resource guide to help them know what other agencies are out there.”
Mazzari, who took on the directorship in October, is passionate about fighting homelessness and poverty.
“It’s a way for me to give back,” she said. “It’s a way to plant a seed. We don’t preach to the guests, there are no sermons, but we just want to be a good example. We want to show kindness and compassion. We want to encourage someone to get to know Christ.”
There are several ways community members can help, Mazzari said. One way is to join the ranks of “amazing” volunteers from many walks of life which staff the sanctuary. People can and do volunteer once a week, every other week or even once a month.
“Our volunteers are a support system for our guests,” said Mazzari. “It’s so great to see the volunteers interact with the guests. They become friends.”
She said adult volunteers are needed to supplement the college students who help out at the shelter.
“It’s so nice to see the young people who share our community — students from Mount Vernon Nazarene University and Kenyon College — get involved and take a step toward being an asset to the community,” Mazzari said. “But, we’re faced with a lot of breaks during college, especially during the holidays and we need more adult volunteers.”